Thursday, November 30, 2023

Rejoice, violists!

Every so often I get the pleasure of playing the viola part in Mozart's 1789 orchestration of Handel's Messiah. It is a pleasure because Mozart gave the violists a really challenging and interesting part to play, particularly in the numbers where Handel had us tacet (like "Rejoice geatly"). It is unfortunate that this year's Messiah program does not include all of the movements that have the great viola parts, but I can still rejoice and marvel at the Mozart viola parts in the movements we are playing.

"Rejoice greatly," for example, was originally written for soprano, a single violin line played by two violinists (sometimes played by only one), and continuo. Here are the final few measures (after the singer is finished):
Look at the great counterpoint that Mozart gave the violas in his final measures of "Rejoice greatly":
You can read some fun facts about Mozart's transcription here, but Teri Noel Towe, the writer of the entry at Classical Net, didn't seem to notice the vast improvements that Mozart made in the viola part of the Messiah. When I play this part I feel a deep and personal connection to Mozart. He loved us because he was one of us. One of us, one of us, one of us!

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Little Frogs in the Yakety-yak

Just in case you miss the frog songs that we hear in the warmer weather! (Actually there are no actual frog sounds included, but there are lots of songs about frogs.)

You can find the music on this page of the IMSLP.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Welcome Clara to the IMSLP

Clara is a new way to navigate through the IMSLP. Give it a spin!

You can sort and filter, search for works, and even listen to a sample (eventually this feature will work). It is both interesting and not interesting to see what the most popular pieces in the catalog are. No spoilers from me (and no surprises from the list).

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Scores and Maps

I have always loved maps. My love of maps began with this Ciacoma Cantelli da Vignola map of the Turkish Empire from 1679 that used to hang in the entryway of my childhood home. It has (somehow) followed me through my life. And now its image can "hang" on this page of this blog. (You can see a zoomable digital version of this map here.)

When I was a child I used to make detailed maps of my neighborhood, showing the route that I would walk to school. My father had a map of Paris on the wall of his basement practice studio. I had absolutely no understanding of Paris (or the Turkish Empire of 1679, for that matter), but I used to "walk" along those streets. One of the things that attracted me to Henry Miller (the writer) is that while he was living in Brooklyn he had a map of Paris, and he used to follow all the streets and imagine that he was there. Once he got to Paris he knew his way around.

Our son inherited my love of maps (the above map "lived" on the wall of his room throughout his childhood). And I'm rather thrilled that all three of our granddaughters love maps.

But I digress.

This early morning, while I was rehearsing some Haydn (Opus 77 #2) for a concert in the later morning, I had the sudden sensation that playing chamber music is a little like following a map. It is particularly map-like when you are playing an inner part because you can see and hear all the inner connections.

There is just so much to see and hear in Haydn, and there are all sorts of "side streets" and changes in "landscape."

But if the goal of a chamber music experience is a performance, the "points of interest" should really be found during score study and rehearsal so that we don't get distracted by new insights during performance and cause our trusting listeners to be dragged off onto unfamiliar roads or back alleys.

During orchestral performances I have the leisure to observe the music, because my main job is to play together with my section and to follow a conductor who, like a tour guide, has the paths s/he wants the music to take mapped out.

But chamber music is different, particularly when it is by Haydn, because there is just so much to observe.

Monday, November 06, 2023

Salomé's Dance for Violin, Viola, and Cello

You can hear this music accompanying some of the final scenes of the 1922/23 silent film (one hundred years ago!) of Salomé that was produced, directed, choreographed, acted, and danced by Alla Nazimova through this link. You can find the score and parts on this page of the IMSLP.

The piece, which is ten minutes long, can be played with or without the film.